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B.C. 'quick wins' staffer defends breach of trust: 'enthusiasm or recklessness'

Day 3 of sentencing of civil servant for breach of trust using public funds for B.C. Liberals—as ex-Premier Clark's own 'ethnic' scheme raised

Brian Bonney, former B.C. Liberal operations director at the same time he was a B.C. government communications employee, appears in his Twitter photograph. He is being sentenced this month after pleading guilty to breach of trust last October

Courtesy Brian Bonney/Twitter

Brian Bonney, former B.C. Liberal operations director at the same time he was a B.C. government communications employee, appears in his Twitter photograph. He is being sentenced this month after pleading guilty to breach of trust last October

The sentencing of Brian Bonney — an ex-B.C. civil servant who pleaded guilty to breach of trust for using his taxpayer-funded job to boost the B.C. Liberal party — heard from his defence lawyer Thursday morning.

Bonney was a key figure in a scheme saw taxpayer resources, meant only for public not partisan work, used to woo immigrant communities to support B.C. Liberals and then-Premier Christy Clark, for instance by apologizing for historical wrongs, considered election "quick wins."

Defence lawyer Ian Donaldson rejected the Crown describing Bonney's role as "frankly a cynical purpose."

"Bonney at no time had a cynical purpose in his actions," he retorted. "He was trying to do that which was expected of him …

"In the enthusiasm or recklessness of not paying attention to where the line was, he engaged in communications with others … beyond that which the public ought properly to be paying him for and … into communications of a partisan nature."

It is illegal and against civil service rules to do partisan work on the taxpayer's dime. The Crown wants 12- to 23-month's imprisonment, though likely served under house arrest with "strict" conditions."

Justice David St. Pierre won't hand out a sentence for several weeks, but on Thursday he interrupted Donaldson after reading emails between Bonney and others involved.

"Everybody knows or suspects that goes on," St. Pierre observed. "It’s just rare to see it out in print, I guess. Knowing that it goes on and accepting it are two different things."

The provincial judge added that, although a politically impartial civil service is "often an unattainable ideal, but we still need to promote those values."

But Bonney's lawyer repeatedly stressed he didn't act alone but was directed by higher-ups.

"He's doing things at the behest of others—reporting to others," Donaldson said Thursday. "And I ask you to draw the inference that there wasn't anybody in this loop who apprehended that Mr. Bonney was acting in a criminal fashion."

In fact, at the initial 2011 multicultural outreach meeting that set the scheme in motion, Bonney was just one of six government staffers on the public payroll, plus four taxpayer-paid caucus employees — also barred from partisan work during work hours — and one B.C. Liberal staffer.

That's according to a government-launched investigation into the scheme by B.C.'s top civil servant, John Dyble, in March 2013 — which reviewed roughly 10,000 pages of documents and personal emails and interviewed 27 people about what they knew.

That founding meeting, Dyble found, was organized by Premier Christy Clark's then-deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, who resigned in 2013 amidst the scandal.

It wasn't the only time Clark's name surfaced during Bonney's hearings this week. Also referenced by the Crown was how she won her own race for B.C. Liberal leadership in 2011 with the endorsement of only one elected MLA, Harry Bloy. After she became Premier, Bloy was "rewarded" with a job as Minister of State for Multiculturalism — directly overseeing ethnic outreach efforts — Butcher stated.

Bloy had secured bulk "block" online votes for Clark from ethnic communities; she eked out a win over her second-place contender by 340 points.

"Party members were sent personal identification numbers through the mail that would allow them to vote in the leadership election online," Butcher said. "Bloy used his connections … gathered blocks of PINs which were supplied to Mr. Bloy who provided them to other party supporters who entered them online, block voting in a proxy manner."

It was, Butcher argued, evidence of Bloy's understanding of the partisan importance of ethnic voters. After the "quick wins" scandal was leaked publicly, Bloy's successor as minister of state for multiculturalism, John Yap, was forced to resign.

Bonney's sentencing hearings close Friday afternoon, and sentencing is scheduled the last week of the month.

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